Republicans: Let’s cut it all and go home

Quelle surprise!

The Republicans want to cut everything they don’t like and force the Federal Government to fire 15% of its workforce. Dave Weigel put a greatest hits list of the cuts together – check it out.  Some on the list are things that conservatives have been trying to get rid of forever: the National Endowment for the Arts (because art is stupid and effete – and sometimes it offends us), PBS (they don’t like Julia Child or the Antiques Road Show?), and Amtrak (nobody rides trains, real ‘Mericans drive trucks).

One of my favorites is Repealing the Davis-Bacon Act, because why would we want the construction and other workers working on public projects to be paid the area’s prevailing wage?  Republicans have been trying to get rid of it for quite some time and have never quite succeeded.  There is also a reduction to the Legal Services Corporation.  LSC provides funding for legal aid for the indigent.  LSC isn’t the public defenders office, though those offices are chronically underfunded.  LSC grants help to pay for lawyers to assist low-income Americans settle disputes with landlords, obtain protection orders, fight for custody of their children, receive proper compensation from employers, and more.  It’s lawyers for people who can’t afford normal hourly rates for lawyers but still need to wade through the legal system.  There are too many to count – Cutting funding for AmeriCorps/VISTA and other National Service Programs, Union Busting (prohibiting Union activities by Federal employees), taking money away from D.C., and prohibiting the Federal government from using federal money to defend the new health care law in court (clever, eh?).  Then there is this: halving funding for Congressional printing.  How are they going to print enough copies of bills they don’t like in order to complain about the number of pages that they have to read?

What does this proposal from the Republican Study Committee do to defense spending? Nothing.  What does it do to reform Social Security or Medicare, which make up a bigger portion of the budget than defense? Nothing.  It doesn’t even contain any ideas.  We’re going to have to reckon with all three eventually.  Defense spending can come down, and should.  We also need to seriously look at Social Security and Medicare.  We are going to have to stop cooking the books and enact major fixes to the programs.  It would be nice if Congress would face up to that.

Cutting small, but important, programs like the NEA or National Service might satisfy a small portion of Americans, but it doesn’t address our long-term problems.  It also sends a terrible message.  We should care about art.  It’s a window on our collective souls – it asks questions we won’t ask ourselves.  National Service puts young Americans (and some older Americans) to work across the country in communities needing support.  It makes a difference in the lives of millions of Americans and thousands of communities.  At least the Republicans are making their priorities blatant enough so no one will mistake them.

It’s not going to pass.  It may pass the House, but it won’t pass the Senate.  Even if it does, it won’t be signed by the President.  What it will do is a create a headache for Leader Boehner.  More than two-thirds of his caucus are pushing this budget battles further than he wants to go.  Rep. Boehner is certainly pragmatic and he may even be responsible.  This is a list that is more ideological than anything else.  It may certainly help to close the budget deficit, but only if we magically reduce spending to 2006 levels (by using a TARDIS?).  I think Rep. Boehner is going to be reluctant to continue to use his party’s political capital on my bills and ideas that have little chance of going anywhere and don’t actually offer the country a way forward.

For now, the Tea Party is going to set the tone.  The next move is for the Majority Leader.

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